(sitting in a corner of a cabin near a warm fireplace)
Burn… burn… they can all burn… yes….
I cannot distinguish the monsters inside me from the monster that is me… gone… all gone… the light… my light…
This isn’t what Sister would have wanted. She would be frightened of me. They should all be frightened of me. So much death… so much hate…
You are of the darkness little shade… of the void… you belong with us…
No… I can’t… I won’t…
You have. And you did.
* * * * *
I tried to focus on playing the fey pipes that Ohm had given me before he left. I have nothing left of Asura now except for memories. Memories of her dancing in the tall grass; of her singing the songs she learned from the other fey children. A small transparent version of Sister danced in the corner as I played and I heard Asche in the other corner singing along faintly.
This is all I have left.
* * * * *
(about a week earlier)
Pedaline woke the next morning sometime before I could. I was almost expecting her to be long gone but for some reason she decided to stay. My injuries must have looked worse than I thought. After a quick breakfast, we left the Black Thorn and headed towards the mage tower since I still had unfinished business there regarding Lawbringer.
As we walked I felt like I was seeing the world again through new eyes. There were new shades of meaning in every movement of every person I saw. Hopes, fears, joy, pain, and countless other feelings were all displayed in the crowds of people we passed like a confusing mass mosaic of emotion. Have people always been like this? I found myself staring at Pedaline for what must have been too long as I noticed what seemed to be a thousand new and different things about her. She caught my eye and gave me a strange look. Was it disgust? Or discomfort? Maybe amusement? I never realized how much information could be contained on a person’s face.
At the mage tower I was able to find Dresden and return Lawbringer to him. It had been a useful tool and a powerful weapon but it did not fit my nature. Dresden noticed a change in my mannerisms and seemed curious. He did not return the money I had spent but instead gave me a different sword named Oathbringr; a hand and a half broad bladed weapon that I was not accustomed to but still fit in my hands well. There was mention of it being asleep and needing awakening and Dresden seemed to think the weapon could become very powerful in the right hands.
After leaving the tower Pyry’s voice came over the communication pearls announcing that a young psionic altarin girl was in trouble and needed our help. Pedaline seemed OK with the prospect of a little excitement and agreed to accompany me as I went to rejoin the group at the western gate of Sanctuary.
It had only been a little more than a day since our encounters in the hidden mountain and rescuing Asura. Sister had experienced so much pain and terror in the last weeks and I hoped that she would have had a chance to rest in a safe place for a while before leaving Sanctuary again; but it seems our timelines are accelerating at an ever-increasing rate.
Once we reached the gate and regrouped, except for Dastan and Mythia, we rented a few horses and prepared to leave the city. Sister looked upset when Dastan’s absence was mentioned.
We left Sanctuary at a gallop and rode westward toward the city of Arinyelle. After several miles of hard riding we found an overturned caravan with all of the riders and horses dead being stuck with many arrows each. We had ridden straight into a trap.
In less than a moment we found ourselves surrounded by archers and facing a large demon commanded by Liecheus who looked down at us smugly. I wished that I still had Lawbringer to sever that smug head from his shoulders.
He offered us a choice. Die now, or live contracted under his service. The contract he offered was magically binding and would allow us certain freedoms so long as we performed a certain number of tasks for him. We discussed it amongst ourselves and it seemed that the consensus was that this contract would prevent us from finishing our original task given by Death and that most of us found dying to be preferable to signing.
Once we realized that we would not be signing it seemed that Liecheus began to realize this as well. We had only a few seconds to come up with a plan. Asche had a gift given to her by the Patron that would allow her to slow time temporarily so we passed her several spell stones that might be able to harm Liecheus enough to kill him while Pedaline would cause a distraction for long enough for us to cut through the archers and try to escape. Prayers were offered under breath to different deities and I offered one to Selena as a last hope.
Asche touched a tattoo on her shoulder and then everything was over in an instant. The sky turned black and we were engulfed in complete darkness. I heard a cry of pain from the direction of Liecheus and the sound of bodies hitting the ground. The darkness lifted and in the place of every archer there was a drixil standing over a dead corpse. The demon had also been turned to ash but Liecheus was nowhere to be seen. Asche’s prayer to Kylandil had been answered by his daughter and we had been saved just in time.
There was another woman with the group of drixils who was mute but was referred to by the others as Asacia. Tamyr seemed to recognize her as a powerful psionic mage and was very excited at her appearance.
Through the help of Asacia we found the young altarin girl, whose name was Marina, and rescued her from what appeared to be slavers taking her to Arinyelle for sale to the city of demons. I hoped that we could return to Sanctuary once we had retrieved the girl but that hope was lost when we received information from an arcadian monk that the city of Arinyelle was in danger of becoming over run by undead.
From one danger and on to the next we set out for Arinyelle; except now with Asacia accompanying us for some reason. A short distance outside of the city we saw gigantic monstrosities rise above the trees with ten legs and a head with four rotating faces that seemed to look everywhere at once. Pyry must have panicked upon seeing them and inadvertently sent up a bright flare that drew the attention of one of the monsters to our group.
What followed was a blur of terror and death. Asura and Pedaline fell during the first few moments and were revived thanks to Pyry’s potions. Miraculously we were just barely able to escape thanks to a ring of blink Asche took from Liecheus and another that Tamyr had with him.
We blinked our way into the city on top of a garden rooftop and took a moment to rest. Most of us had been both paralyzed and poisoned during the fight; to which Asacia was able to help us with the paralysis but not the poison. We would need more curing potions for that.
While the group rested Pedaline, Weslyn, and Tamyr went down and out into the street to look for a cure-poison remedy. I was not happy with staying behind, but I knew I needed rest if there was going to be another fight soon; which was a high likelihood considering our information was that the entire city might become undead.
Again, what followed next was a blur, except this time the blur was more real and present than it was in recollection. At some point, strange forks of purpleish-red lightning spread across the sky and the rain that was just beginning to fall stopped in midair as if obeying time was only an optional requirement of nature now. Day became night and then day again. We moved in one direction but ended up going in another.
Along the way we found a shop that had herbs and potions among which were several meant to cure poison which we gladly drank. There was also a curious small golden flecked potion locked in a box that needed a little convincing to open but was eventually persuaded to release its contents.
Turning away from the now open box I saw Sister collapse on the other side of the shop in Pyry’s arms and Asche suddenly burst through the front door of the shop speaking frantically of an evil creature outside. In a rush of movement, Marina restored Sister to consciousness and we all exited the shop through the back.
The day had once again turned to night and the streets were empty and quiet. Suddenly a wave of dark energy erupted from the center of town and the night became day again. This was becoming tiresome.
With the abrupt arrival of day we were suddenly surrounded by people going about their daily business as usual without being a bit surprised at what must have been a sudden appearance from us. Or at least it seemed sudden. To be honest whatever magic we were dealing with was far beyond my comprehension and our entire experience here had made me feel uneasy. We needed to leave this city.
Eventually we found Tamyr in the center of the city laughing at the sky in the middle of the street. He had apparently destroyed the obelisk in the center of town and prevented more undead from rising. With our task seemingly finished I wished that we leave but Tamyr was insistent on visiting a book shop he had found earlier so we followed him to it.
While waiting for Tamyr I occupied myself by relieving passersby of things that might seem interesting. I found a glass coin in a distracted man’s pocket that was like the one we had received from the goblin the restore us back to life if needed; except this one contained a cloudy blue energy. Curious, I followed the man and recognized him as someone I had followed before who worked with the slave traders in Sanctuary. This time unfortunately he spotted me before I could find his final destination.
One thing lead to another and he ended up dead in the street. Now it was definitely time to leave the city. Guards were called but I was able to escape unpursued with the rest of the group to the edge of the city where Sister was able to create a teleportation circle for us to return back to Sanctuary.
For the most part, we all made it back in one piece. Some of us had lost things in the teleportation while others had lost clothes. It was still an impressive feat for Sister’s first attempt at the magic. After a few hours, we all found our things and each other at the Sleeping Dragon. What had seemed like one day had somehow turned into over a week of time passing from the time that we left Sanctuary due to the strange things that happened to us in Arinyelle.
Sanctuary had been attacked by the same creatures that we saw on our way to Arinyelle and was defended by the many powerful fighters and mages that resided in the city, although there were still substantial casualties from what we could gather.
It seemed that in our absence Liecheus had gone into the Feral Forest and was currently working on breaking the third seal there. Perhaps he was expecting us to simultaneously break the seal in the underwater city and he would have the advantage in obtaining the book of power before we could reach it. In any case we decided that it might be best for us to wait for him there and hopefully catch him off guard and kill him.
There were many things to do and time was pressing so we went our separate ways to complete a variety of tasks. I went to the shadow guild following after Pedaline to check on the state of things there. When I approached the shadow district I saw that the area we had set up Jordana’s shop had been hit hard by the attack so I decided to visit her first before going to the shadow guild.
Jordana’s shop had been ransacked and there was blood inside and outside the shop. The blood was still somewhat fresh which told me this was not from the attack almost a week ago. The blood outside showed signs of a body being dragged away from the shop towards the city so I attempted to follow the trail which was quickly lost once I returned to the city streets.
I looked around the houses nearby in hopes of finding a body but couldn’t find Jordana. I did however find a body. It was Rochelle, a member of the Silver Foxes that had joined us in the cave and disappeared. She was stashed in a bush along the side of one of the houses and was naked with no visible signs of injury; but still dead all the same.
I felt a strange presence behind that made my hair stand on end, but when I turned there was nothing. Something felt extremely wrong about this moment. I gathered up Rochelle in my cloak and took her back to the Shadow guild.
The feeling of wrongness stayed with me for quite some time. Once I reached the shadow guild I don’t remember much else besides standing in the doorway being asked questions. My mind was blank.
It wasn’t until nightfall that I was broken out of my stupor by Pyry’s voice again over the pearls.
Asura was gone.
I felt something inside of my soul brake.
We can help you… ease the pain…
I asked Pyry the cause even though I knew the answer. Liecheus.
We know where he is… where you can find him…
I took the pearl earpiece out.
She knows where he is…
I felt a pull toward Pedaline who was inside of the Shadow guild. I had made my decision.
Give me the power I need.
Pedaline gave me the information I needed. I drank the golden flecked potion and ran into the Feral Forrest accompanied by figures of shadow. Moving at impossible speeds I saw all manner of foul things along the path of the cursed forest. I was not harassed… for I was a monster amongst monsters.
This feels like a dream… a nightmare…
I dream in shadows…
I am the dark.
THEY WILL ALL BURN.
I burst into a clearing filled with people. Liecheus was there. Mythia cried out my name. The shadows materialized into dark creatures that began to cut down people like grass before a scythe. I could smell the blood… anticipate the slaughter… Liecheus moved to touch his ring but I was already a shadow flying through the void to consume him.
We connected with an explosion of darkness. Suddenly we had both been transported to the face of a mountain overlooking the sea. Liecheus was sent flying off the mountainside and into the night sky towards a rocky shore far below.
I heard the distant sound of a body hitting stone. Then silence.
The silence was broken by the screech of an Erinyes. Arrows flew out of the darkness from the mountain behind me and one struck me in the back. I would complete my task.
Ignoring the creatures behind me I ran down towards the ocean and disappeared from the view. I found the crushed and mangled body of Liecheus and retrieved it from the rocks. I set the body on fire and watched it burn.
The energy that was not my own left my body and I collapsed unconscious to the ground.
I came back to consciousness in a room surrounded by what was left of Aralondil. Everything was in a haze. My body ached and my mind swam with dark thoughts. I do not remember much else.
I tried to kill a man. Pyry stopped me. There were arguments and talk of the greater good, gods, and wars. I only felt empty… like a dried husk. Revenge had not satiated my rage. It had not quenched my thirst. It had not brought Sister back…
The gods can burn for all I care.
A door appeared from nowhere and Pyry, who I realized had been supporting me for some time now, ushered me inside. Asche slipped a ring on my finger. Something about the home on the other side of the door felt warm and welcoming; drastically contrasting with the night outside and my broken soul. Sister would have liked this place.
I found the darkest corner of the room and turned away from the others. If I cannot be a protector then I will be a destroyer… a monster that monsters fear… a void that consumes… a black fire that burns…
I will be Darkness.